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    Black Literature from the Colonial Period to 1930

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    Being in a Black Colonial Literature class so far has opened up so much to me that I hadn’t even known. Throughout history, African Americans have faced an appalling number of obstacles to gain equal opportunity and righteousness. The role of African American literature in recent years has been to illuminate for the modern world the sophistication and beauty inherent in their culture as well as the constant struggle they experience in the oppressive American system. Without all the literature provided by these black nationalists, the majority of this information might not have been acknowledged at all.

    The main desire was to be able to gain a union by being able to fully participate as United States citizens and to call for Nationalism to have African Americans be independent from society. The way for them to be fully satisfied with their independence would be for them, to be free spiritually, substantially, and culturally. In all honesty, the majority of African American history symbolized the amount of struggles they had to overcome. These struggles occurred whether it was during slavery or the aftermath. They looked out for opportunities within economics, independence, knowledge, and political self-determination.

    For instance, James Baldwin had written up to thirty unfinished pages representing civil rights leaders, such as Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, and Medgar Evers. The thing that makes his stories so inspiring is the fact that he got to know all three of these men personally before their tragic deaths. Because these pages were never published, director Raoul Peck decided to take matters into his hands by piling up the remaining of his pages. He only used Baldwin’s words and clips of him in either lectures/interviews. Baldwin’s texts were narrated by Samuel L. Jackson. The result of this documentary demonstrates that the civil rights movement and America’s failures are strikingly similar and relevant to our current times. It hasn’t disappeared at all. James Baldwin felt strongly about the fact that he didn’t want to be labeled a “nigger.” Instead, he wanted to be labeled as a man. If anyone thought that he was a “nigger,” that meant that they took delight in using that disgusting term, and they needed to figure out exactly why.

    Having James Baldwin teach us about ourselves through his writing was a great way to take away the stereotypes that were specifically placed on us. He proved the ignorant people wrong about the typical stereotypes, such as black people being illiterate and uneducated. He was able to express it through his literature with his work of prominence and brilliance. James Baldwin’s goal was to break the stereotypes that were placed upon black people through black literature. His purpose was also with education and how to get white people to stop being as ignorant. He once said, “People who shut their eyes to reality simply invite their own destruction, and anyone who insists on remaining in a state of innocence long after that innocence is dead turns himself into a monster.” By stating this quote, he is exposing that White America had lost their innocence.

    What portrayed this was the atrocious treatment they put upon the people of the land. I completely agree with the fact that they didn’t truly have the best education on other races and came across as ignorant because of this. Their innocence was taken away a long time ago. The way they were treating black people was as if they were monsters. I gravely appreciate that James Baldwin took his time to make statements pointing out the flaws that certain people had and exposed them for who they were and what they lacked. It wasn’t something that people could ignore and sweep under the mat. Eventually, it’ll spew everywhere and it will be too hard to ignore. It’s best to address the situation then and there rather than have everybody hate on others without having a valid reason for it. Teaching white people why it is wrong to treat black people the way they do firsthand is much better than waiting when it’s much too late.

    Although there were some civil rights activists back in the day who wanted to be represented in a better light, there were some people who solemnly agreed with the stereotypical accusations that were thrown at them and believed that they could be better. For instance, in The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, Olaudah Equiano was a Nigerian man who was kidnapped into slavery when he was eleven years of age. The majority of his time as a slave was spent with the British navy vessels and captains of slave ships. Equiano did not necessarily criticize everything that the Europeans were saying about how the African culture was barbaric and uncivilized because he argued that they could be civilized if they were given the same amount of opportunities that they gave to their own.

    Equiano believed with the European stereotypes that stated that Africans were “backwards.” However, he also believed that when it came to intelligence, Africans were just as smart as Europeans and the only reason it wasn’t as obvious was because they lacked education. Equiano felt strongly that all they needed was the proper education in order for them to strive. Although Equiano is right in certain aspects, I don’t necessarily agree with the way he worded it. I don’t like that he agreed with the Europeans regarding African Americans being certain things. I believe those were stereotypes placed upon African Americans because they didn’t know how to handle people who didn’t look or act like them. In my opinion, as a black man himself, Equiano shouldn’t have necessarily talked down on his own race in the way that he did. However, I do agree with the lack of education resulting in how “backwards” African Americans were and that if they were provided the proper amount of education, it would make a huge difference.

    Throughout this book, Equiano expresses that all he wanted was to be able to achieve admission to the European customs and culture. He wanted to be able to emulate the Europeans in such a way that he would be able to be seen as a well educated and civilized individual even though these “civilized” people conquered him by making him their slave. Equiano wrote this autobiography in order to lay emphasis on the fact that he fully accomplished the civilizing process. He saw that he could officially be accepted as a progressive and knowledgeable European subject. He didn’t see himself as just a reader, but also a writer who was able to write his future to education. Equiano based these facts on his own life as he thoroughly demonstrated his point.

    James Baldwin believed in the power of education as well as Equiano did. He once said, “The paradox of education is precisely this—that as one begins to become conscious one begins to examine the society in which he is being educated.” Baldwin strongly believed in the power of education in the sense that teachers should encourage their students to be able to fully grasp that the world was shaped by the people who came before them and that it can eventually be formed into something brand new. This quote is very accurate to today’s world as well. I like the fact that Baldwin went out of his way to be as blunt as possible when it came to the type of education a person needed. I believe that he is the voice of many people who were silenced during this time and he broadcased his voice as much as he could. To this day, we are impacted greatly be what he did for us and I am truly grateful for it. One person can make a difference, and I strongly believe that he made a difference with his beliefs, especially with education.

    One of the quotes that Equiano stated that stood out to me was, “This produced copious perspirations, so that the air soon became unfit for respiration, from a variety of loathsome smells, and brought on a sickness among the slaves, of which many died, thus falling victims to the improvident avarice, as I may call it, of their purchasers. This wretched situation was again aggravated by the galling of the chains, now become insupportable; and the filth of the necessary tubs, into which the children often fell, and were almost suffocated. The shrieks of the women, and the groans of the dying, rendered the whole a scene of horror almost inconceivable.” Equiano had stated this within the very middle section of his passage. Equiano wanted to stand out so much to the point where he would eventually end up in a collection of different writers’ works, literature classes, and history itself. He expressed that during this time, this was such a devastating and horrifying things to occur in history.

    I believe that both him and James Baldwin wanted the same things regarding using their platform to expose as many ruthless people as they possibly could. I agree that this is a good way to show the struggles and pain that these people had to go through in this time period. I dislike the fact that millions of Africans were forced to be taken away from their homes and having to be put on ships meant for enslavement. Slaves were chained against their wills and forced to perform their bodily functions in the process of being chained. Their filth due to their urination and feces was everywhere to the point where the air consumed with this heavy unpleasant, and harmful odor. There was no privacy whatsoever, including for the women.

    These slaves weren’t able to move and barely escaped because they would just cause themselves more pain and eventually weaken. They were hardly given anything to eat or drink so they basically starved and grew sick in multitudes. The sounds of terror, cries of pain, and anguish was loud enough to fill the air every single day. The majority of these slaves were nothing but confused as to why they were there in the first place. All they could feel was fear due to the foreign white faces that had captured them on the ships. They were forcefully detached from their families and put together with people they didn’t even know and couldn’t understand a word that came out of their mouths.

    Having Equiano’s explanation in this narrative is respected due to the fact that he lived through those times and was able to express the realities of the slavery. I’m not going to lie, I teared up just writing this because it hurts just to think about the amount of pain they had to go through just because of the color of their skin. I approve of Equiano exposing these disgraceful and inhumane people because the fact the majority of these slaves preferred to be dead than to live another day having to suffer. It upsets me that they had to go through so much pain due to the fact that they were ruthlessly beaten. I strongly disagree with people being forcefully taken away from their own homes to serve others. I applaud Equiano for not fabricating the truth in the sense that he’d be scolded by certain people for being honest.

    Another inspirational quote that was stated by Equiano is, “I hope to have the satisfaction of seeing the renovation of liberty and justice resting on the British government, to vindicate the honour of our common nature.” This quote was stated at the very last chapter of this book. This quote basically sums up everything that Equiano stands for within his entire book. I like that the release of Equiano’s narrative had a huge impact on the new lifestyle he was trying to accomplish. He hoped that since this narrative was released that he would be able to call for the British government to finally be able to live up to the principles they had always declared when it came to the concerns of justice, light, and liberty.

    He had a huge desire that they would at least think through and consider what the Bible had to say about everything they thought was right in terms of their actions. Furthermore, he makes a dispute that completely diminishing the slave trade would be efficiently wise towards the economics. His book is very inspiring when it comes to touching many people’s lives and styles. However, the main purpose is to have as much encouragement towards his English readers in order for them to listen to their inner and best versions of themselves. It amazes me the amount of influence this mad had on black literature and I completely agree with his use of his platform to make a difference in this world.

    I also had the privilege of reading a book called Christianity, Islam and the Negro Race written by Edward Wilmot Blyden. This book goes in depth with Edward Wilmot Blyden’s life. In 1832, Edward Wilmot Blyden was born in the Virgin Islands at St. Thomas. What inspired me about this book was that he was a writer, educator, politician, and diplomat predominantly in Liberia. His mother was a teacher and his father was a tailor. Both of his parents were literate. The main thing that became of great importance in Blyden’s speeches later in life against mulattoes was when his family claimed the “pure Ibo” ancestry. His entire family lived in Venezuela for two years and he ended up learning Spanish, which was one of the many languages that he learned in his life.

    When he decided to go back to the Virgin Islands, he ended up gaining a better education, which led him to making connections with a Dutch Reformed clergyman. Unfortunately, the attempt to send him to his American University failed due to the fact that racial prejudice was put upon them. Blyden felt that this visit was useless because he couldn’t even benefit from it. He also feared the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850 because it came into full effect. This frightened him and he felt threatened by this to the point where he wanted to migrate to Liberia. After spending the majority of his life in different parts of the world, he decided to remain in Liberia for twenty-two years. While he stayed, he registered in the tiny Alexander High School. The main reason was for him to study the classics and Hebrew. Throughout his journey, he eventually became the principal of the school.

    Blyden was active in public debates. He also served in various official missions both to the Islamic kingdoms of inner West Africa and the world powers like any well-educated citizen of a new country. He was professor at University of Liberia from 1862 to 1871. He also served as a secretary of state and learned Arabic. Blyden was willing to neglect all the European literature from Negro education due to the fact that the slave trade began in the West. The main ones he wanted to abandon were Gibbon and Macaulay, Shakespeare and Milton. Basically, anything from the early modern period that had to do with Europeans had to be rejected in Blyden’s eyes. He felt strongly about African education just relying on the works of ancient evolution. He relates to both James Baldwin and Olaudah Equiano in such a way that literature was their form of speaking to other people and educating people on how they got to certain places in their lives.

    Olaudah Equiano, James Baldwin, and Edward Wilmot Blyden aspired to have a change in the world regarding African Americans and were able to express it wonderfully through their literature. They believed that literature was essential to the world. They wanted to make a difference in this world by expressing their opinions and hoping that it would touch the world and have them have a different perspective on what was going on. There were many difficulties these three men had to face during their time. However, they were able to keep their heads up and continue to move forward with what they believed in.

    They had a legacy and this world wouldn’t be what it is today if it weren’t for them. It amazes me how strong these three men were during their time periods because I can only imagine what they went through. I’m impressed with who they were as both people and advocates for individuality and better educations. Although we had all these great black men pave the way for us to be where we are today, I still feel like there is so much more to be done for us to be able to fully make it. Nowadays, it seems as though we are moving backwards. Ending ignorance and racism is a work in progress. Educating people on how to treat others in terms of accepting black people for who they are is the best way to have others gain intelligence. Education is the key factor in all of this.

    I strongly believe in the accurate representation of Black Literature in the sense that it gives us different viewpoints from black writers. I feel as though black people are being misrepresented in terms of literature and this is a major issue. This issue is only going to prove the media correct about the stereotypes they have about us and it needs to come to an end. Black literature contains the history that a lot of people don’t even know about. Fortunately, we have the legacy of these three black men and the way they expressed the truth and accomplishments. The stories that these men hold are quite astounding. Because of them, we are given a better look at the things that really went on. I believe that it is extremely valuable for black people to truly comprehend where they came from. These men are very unique and express their point of views in such special ways. I’m extremely grateful for being granted the knowledge of what went on in the history of black literature.

    This essay was written by a fellow student. You may use it as a guide or sample for writing your own paper, but remember to cite it correctly. Don’t submit it as your own as it will be considered plagiarism.

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    Black Literature from the Colonial Period to 1930. (2021, Jul 21). Retrieved from

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